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A Plano man who swindled real estate investors with a story about a fake North Texas Disney park was sentenced on Tuesday to 17 1/2 years in federal prison.
Thomas W. Lucas Jr., 35, was convicted by a jury in February of seven federal counts of wire fraud and one count of lying to the FBI.
Lucas claimed a Disney source tipped him off about the theme park, and he used the hoax to get people to invest in land — which garnered him large commissions.
U.S. District Judge Amos L. Mazzant said Lucas’ actions “caused a lot of damage to a lot of people,” and the judge doled out a punishment that was at the very top of the sentencing guideline range.
He also ordered Lucas to pay $8.4 million in restitution.
“I see no remorse whatsoever,” Mazzant said Tuesday.
Lucas read a brief statement in which he said he was “heartbroken and ashamed” about how his actions hurt those he loves.
His defense attorney, Marlo Cadeddu, sought a new trial Monday, saying newly discovered evidence appeared to implicate her client’s recently-deceased uncle. Other evidence cast doubts on the credibility of one of the government’s witnesses, she said.
Prosecutors said Lucas profited from his lie about a “Frontier Disney DFW” theme park that was to be built near Celina. He forged official-looking Disney letters and altered maps and photographs that he claimed were given to him by his secret Disney source.
The material, which he used in presentations, was intended to trick investors into buying land in rural Collin and Denton counties that they hoped to flip to developers for a profit after the Disney announcement.
Lucas’ scheme defrauded more than 100 investors out of about $60 million from 2006 to 2010, according to the U.S. attorney’s office for the Eastern District of Texas. Investors included former SMU basketball star Jon Koncak.
Lucas earned more than $448,000 in sales commissions and fees on the land deals, prosecutors said.
He spent some of that money on a lavish 2007 London vacation during which he was chauffeured around town, dined at celebrity hangouts, shopped at high-end stores and went nightclubbing with VIP treatment. The trip cost more than $37,000.
Much of the money lost was due to risky option contracts. Under those agreements, investors controlled the land for a fee but for only a short time period, such as 60 to 90 days. If they didn’t close on the due date or pay for an extension, they lost the money.
Cadeddu said in her motion for a new trial that the new evidence came to light after her client’s uncle, Harry B. “Beau” Lucas Jr., died on May 5.
She said about $740,000 was found to be missing from partnerships that Beau Lucas controlled. In addition, Beau Lucas wired a total of $60,300 to Koncak, a government witness, from April 2010 to August 2013, Cadeddu said in her motion.
The payments were considered loans, but Koncak never made a single payment on the “unauthorized loans,” the motion said.
Such information, she said, would “tend to support a defense theory that Beau Lucas was the architect of a scheme to defraud investors in order to enrich himself.”